So the big goal that I want to achieve is to have a proof that I made an app for any thing that might come up later. After asking and researching I found out that I can register a copyright for my app with a copyright office to claim ownership of my app.

A little bit about apps:

Some of you might or might not know that an app is just a set of files : java, xml, .... that contain lines of code. And when the app is finished you can out put the app as a single APK file, and that APK file is then put on the play store for people to download (of course the app considered here is android app).


1) How do I register a copyright for my app, do I provide the individual files to the office or the single APK file?

2) Do I need a lawyer to do so?

3) Lets say I include third party libraries in my app, then these libraries have their own code included in my app. Do I provide these to the office too?

4) Any other ways to prove ownership of my app?

  • Registering is not required to claim or establish copyright. – BlueDogRanch May 31 '19 at 22:10
  • It is only required to take action against infringers. – user6726 May 31 '19 at 22:38
  • @user6726 what about proving app ownership? – data May 31 '19 at 22:39
  • @user6726 how to prove I own an app without registering? – data May 31 '19 at 22:39
  • Why would you want to prove that you hold the copyright? Usually it's w.r.t. infringement lawsuits; if you have in mind something like selling the right, you just need to convince the buyer that it's your product, not someone else's. Perhaps with a sworn statement. – user6726 May 31 '19 at 22:43

You can start here, registering with the Electronic Copyright Office. This circular describes the process (it's tailored to registering computer programs). You submit the source code in an accepted format (PDF, and others are said to be listed "online"). There is a list of conditions relevant to how much you must provide (for example if the code contains trade secrets. This document covers deposits, i.e. the copies of the work, and §1509.1(C) is specific to computer programs. Read that section to determine what you have to submit. Look at §1507.2 for specification of electronic deposit copies. At some point you will wonder about accepted formats: this is the currently accepted format list.

If you cannot figure it out given this, you do really need a lawyer: but it's not legally required that the application be submitted by a lawyer. There is an increased risk that you will mess up the application if you do it yourself, but the same is also true of paying your income tax, and people do manage on their own. For example, you do need to exploit the "Limitation of Claim" field, so that you do not attempt to claim copyright ownership of third party code.

The situation where two parties A and B both claim copyright ownership is a very complicated matter, briefly summarized here. Most typically, competing claims of ownership involve collaboration and get resolved in court (or by negotiation) after the fact. For example, A may think he owns the copyright because he wrote the code, but he was hired as an employee by B to write that code, and as a work for hire, B may actually own the copyright. But maybe A was an independent contractor who agreed to write some code and license it to B, and A is the copyright holder. If you are just talking about a case of code-poaching (B stole your thumb drive, saw the code, and registered it), when you litigate for infringement, you would present (in court) whatever evidence you have that you are the rightful copyright holder. Registration is a requirement for litigation and provides prima facie evidence – not irrefutable proof – of copyright ownership. The law does not specify a practical means of balancing the evidence in your favor, but surely there are technical ways of permanently encoding your name in the source code.

If I want to sue a person for infringement, I must register the copyright first. 17 USC 411 says that

no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title

"United States work" is defined here – as a US citizen, anything I create is a US work. Anything you create as a non US person and publish in the US is also a US work: basically, if the work involves a US creator or US publisher, it is a US work. If the work is unpublished and you are not a US person, it's not a US work. Once you've determined if the work is a US work, you know whether you have to register before you can sue in US courts.

You would have a separate set of remedies and procedures available to you under Lebanese copyright law (which is a whole other question).

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  • Thanks for the great explanation, I have a question about the earlier comment that you mentioned that I don't need to register my app to claim it as the owner. If that is the case then how to prove it for someone that you own the app? – data May 31 '19 at 23:56
  • So the only way is to register a copyright to claim ownership? – data May 31 '19 at 23:57
  • For example, I can publicly claim that I own the copyright to X and not bother with registration. I can sell that right to B without registration, as long as B believes (and I warrant) that I am the copyright owner. It's just that I can't sue an infringer until I register (if you are a US citizen). I have many times transferred copyright to a third party without first registering – the document simply includes my representation that I own the copyright. My representation is sufficient for that purpose. – user6726 Jun 1 '19 at 0:20
  • I am from Lebanon by the way. I don't know if same rules apply. – data Jun 1 '19 at 0:25
  • Also wanted to ask: Do you think it is a must to register my app with an office? What is the harm if I didn't? – data Jun 1 '19 at 0:28

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